Most contractors miss the “boat” when they misuse or do not use a written warranty certificate in their business. The common idea is that by ignoring a formal warranty and by not bringing it up with the customer, warranties will never become an issue. Wrong!
Contractors should know that in many cases, a contractor will be held to an implied warranty even if they do not formalize the terms in a written warranty form or certificate. We also know that most consumers expect some type of warranty with everything they purchase… including a home improvement. So what is the best way for a home improvement contractor to approach the nasty business of “standing behind” their work?
First of all, you should ALWAYS use a formal written workmanship warranty! It is important that this warranty tell the customer the contractor is only responsible for their work and never for the materials or equipment installed by them. Clearly state that a defect in the materials and equipment is the responsibility of the manufacturer and that claims should be made directly to them. This will eliminate many complaints, limit your exposure, and everyone understands that you are the “little guy” and can’t be responsible for the failure of the product you install… your responsibility is that you install their product correctly!
Your warranty should be specific to the particulars of your trade. For example a roofing contractor’s warranty needs to take into account things like physical damage to the roof and leaks caused by the work of others. A painting contractor’s warranty needs to cover under what circumstances they will be responsible for paint peeling and structural cracking. A general contractor’s warranty needs to cover lack of owner maintenance and normal “wear and tear”. Every trade is different and the warranty form used must reflect that.
The use of a written warranty as a selling tool is often overlooked by contractors. Give a copy of your written warranty certificate WITH THE BID… not with the contract or after the job is done. Look at your warranty as a means to help you get more work and not just a way to limit your exposure after the job is completed. Make your warranty something special to show the customer that, if they have you do the work, they can be confident you will stand behind everything you do. Never hide your warranty in the contract “boilerplate” like most contractors… as though your warranty is some dirty little secret you are trying to gloss over.
Be proud of your warranty and make sure the customer KNOWS you are proud of it! It will help the “bid” you give become a paying customer!